Monday, February 28, 2005

I am sitting at a table, reading my text, waiting for the tires to be fixed…

…and I notice he is back. Have you ever seen him? He comes to the Borders CafĂ© with his computer. He gets a drink. He goes to the newspaper shelves and picks out a few fat papers from all over the country. He takes these to his table and he reads them. Then he folds them up (more or less) and proceeds to do his computer stuff. Hours later he throws the papers over to the bench, packs up and leaves.

I cannot stare him down into shame. And it really is none of my business. Borders can afford the loss of a paper or two. People (myself included) leaf through books. Why not newspapers?

Because what small pleasure remains in the reading of a paper is in the freshness of it, the smell, the neatly folded sections, corners uncurled. And he ruins it for the next person. Oblivious. It bothers me that he is so oblivious to it all.

In defense of good counting skills

Ann writes this in support of her position that Chris Rock inappropriately brought anti-Bush material to the Oscar podium last night and alienated with it a great number of viewers (bold emphasis is my own):

Actually, I think the people who voted for Kerry should be worried. But they'll have to get past their in-group enjoyment of themselves and their own imagined superiority and get some concept of how the people who didn't vote for Kerry -- AKA the majority -- respond to this sort of display.

True, the majority of the viewing public did not vote for Kerry. But nor did they vote for Bush. The crude statistics told us that 60% of eligible voters cast a vote in November. Of those, 51% voted for Bush (CNN). That would put a generous bid of 60,608,582 who may have been offended.

But wait. Current support for Bush in this country is a more relevant marker of audience disenchantment with the jokes. According to a 1/05 NYT/CBS poll , 56% say things are worse now than five years ago. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to Ann and agree that those who believe things are the same or better might be offended. That would be 44% of the viewing American audience. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that maximally, 19,140,000 were offended (based on New Yorker stats that about 43.5 million Americans, or about 15% watch the Oscars).

Assuming that none of them had a sense of humor. Because I, for example, would have laughed at a good anti-Kerry joke last night if Kerry had been our president. I would have been so tickled at having him there that I would not have cared that Chris Rock compared him to a clerk in Gap pretending that Banana Republic had tanktops. I’d say a whooping ha ha to that! So let’s reduce the numbers by a bit – Bush supporters at this point are a somber lot so assume that only 10% can be discounted for having a sense of humor. So, we are now at 17,226,000 of Americans watching offended.

Still more: what of the rest of the world? Assume none of them cared about the budget deficit joke, so all offense has to be taken with respect to the anti- Banana Republic (targeting the war, but with no countries mentioned) humor campaign. Assume that only a percentage of the audience, perhaps corresponding to the Coalition of the Willing would take offense (though I have to say, anti-Bush sentiments are growing even in Poland these days). But I think I can safely say that the international Oscar audience does not consist of many from the Coalition of the Willing. Why? Because 1. the vast majority does not have cable access and therefore does not carry the Oscars (see New Yorker article for more accurate analysis of this) and 2. Just about every one of them do not have a Gap, nor a Banana Republic and so that what meager audience is generated from Bush-supporting (Coalition) countries, it will not get the joke, thus being spared the offense (honestly, you cannot be offended if you do not get the joke). I think that just about leaves all foreign audience (the distributors of the show put it at “several hundred” million in the international category) unoffended. Conservatively, that’s 200,000,ooo unoffended on both sides of the ocean and north and south of our borders. Okay, I’ll generously throw in 5,000,000 offended just to show I am not skewing the numbers here.

So, Ann, out of a conservative audience of 243,500,000 (international + national), 22,226,000 (17,226,000 offended American viewers and 5,000,000 generously granted international offended viewers), or fewer than 11 % may have been offended. A humoirist takes his/her chances. These are pretty good stats in favor of the joke, in my opinion.

Blame it on your agent. Or maybe your lawyer?

Thanks to jwz for the link to the other awards: the Razzies (given by the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation on the night before the Oscars), where Halle Berry was named worst actress of the year for her appearance in Catwoman.

Showing up for the award, she offered this:

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."

Other winners: George W. Bush picked up a Razzie as worst actor of the year for his performance as president in Fahrenheit 9/11. I'm not sure who accepted the award on his behalf (given his need for a rest after his travels to Europe last week, I'm certain he had to send his personal regrets).

Good Monday morning to you, too

Starting the day with two flat tires is a good indication of where this week is heading.